If ever we wanted confirmation that the LibDems don't have the first clue about the way the European Union works, we need look no further than this story in today's Scotsman:
Scotland in EU weaker than Greece, say Lib Dems
An independent Scotland would be allocated less voting power in the European Union than Greece, according to information extracted by the Lib Dems from the European Commission.
The United Kingdom currently has 29 votes within the Council of Ministers – the same number as France, Germany and Italy. This would fall to 27 votes, based on population size, if Scotland were to become independent. Scotland itself would be allocated seven votes as an independent nation – the same number as Denmark, Slovakia, Finland, Ireland and Lithuania.
George Lyon, the Lib Dem MEP, said such a small number of votes would mean Scotland would have to rely on building “shaky alliances” with other member states to pass any motion, or block any proposal.
This story is just plain wrong on so many levels.
First is the idea that the LibDems had to "extract" this information from the EU Commission. The information is common knowledge, and all the details of the voting weights in the Council of the EU are here.
Second, why should it be any surprise that Greece, with a population of 11.1m people, should have a greater voting weight under the current system than Scotland, with a population of 5.2m people? Of course it should.
But third, and rather more seriously, if the LibDems had actually asked the EU Commission they would have been told that the current system of voting weights in the Council of the EU is going to be replaced with a new system of qualified majority voting (QMV) from November 2014 anyway.
When this is introduced, it means that decisions taken in the Council of the EU will need to be approved by a 55% majority of member states and that these states have at least 65% of the EU's population. 55% means at least 16 out of 28 member states, for Croatia is set to join in 2013.
So let's imagine a situation where the UK wants to either get through a proposal which it considers to be in the interests of Britain or block a proposal that it considers not to be in the interests of Britain. It will no longer be able to rely on its current veto for a whole range of policy areas (there's a table of them here) and so will have to find at least 15 other like-minded countries in order to get something through or 12 to block it.
But when Scotland and Wales become independent members of the EU, the interests of Britain—and it is right to acknowledge that there are many areas where we do share a common interest—will be represented by three member states rather than just one, so we will not need to get support from as many other countries on any issue on which we can agree. Therefore Britain as a whole will have a stronger voice in the Council of the EU when England, Scotland and we in Wales can represent ourselves directly. The same will also be true in the European Parliament, although the maths is slightly different.
All three unionist parties like to tell us that Britain is stronger united, but they couldn't be more wrong. Britain isn't stronger united; Britain is stronger untied.